Ubass Adventures: Travelogue from my trip to KALA and NAMM January 2018

Chillin’ with a lovely sunset at Helen Putnam Regional Park, Petaluma, CA USA

Here comes a long overdue travelogue…I know almost a year has flown by…

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In January I traveled to California for the NAMM show in Anaheim to promote the Ubass alongside Kala.
You can read about my experiences from Winter NAMM 2017 here!

Petaluma and Kala Brand Music

My trip started with a visit to Petaluma, CA, the home of Kala Brand Music. This was the second time I visited the Kala headquarters and since the first time in the summer of 2015 a lot has happened. The Ubass has evolved and in October 2017 the company moved to a new and bigger facility that includes a great factory where the California series of the solid body UBasses are built alongside the Elite series of the ukulele models.

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My focus for this visit was to make some videos with the Kala video crew and also talk about Winter NAMM that was just around the corner. I brought my two custom solid body ubasses with the prototype E-A-D-G-C string sets. I did some videos with them alongside the new Kala Journeyman ubass and a 5-string California koa solid body ubass with regular B-E-A-D-G tuning.

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Me and my wife really had a wonderful time in lovely Petaluma situated about an hour drive north of San Francisco. The town has a lovely downtown area and a beautiful countryside. We spent some time in the Helen Putnam Regional Park and caught a lovely sunset over the rolling green hills.

Magical sunset at the Helen Putnam Regional Park

I also had the privilege visiting the home of Kala Brand Music president, Mike Upton, and we had a nice little jam in his living room!

Jammin’ at Mike Uptons place

Winter NAMM 2018

We flew down to Anaheim January 24 one day before the four day music trade show would start at the Anaheim Convention Center. From the NAMM.org homepage:

”The 2018 NAMM Show gathered the music, sound and event technology industries for the largest show in NAMM history, welcoming 115,000 registrants, more than 7,000 brands, exciting events and triple the industry education.”
https://www.namm.org/

From NAMM.org: Winter NAMM 2018 Wrap-up

Pre-NAMM-day (January 24)
I went to pick up my name badge and got to see the wonderful Kala booth. It was a lot bigger then last year. Really spacious and beautiful with a genius and practical design!

The big wall of ukuleles at the Kala booth Winter NAMM 2018 (Since I took this photo with the panorama option on my iPhone it looks a bit strange. But it also show you the massive display in its full glory!)

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Day 1 (January 25)
From the get go there was a steady stream of things happening. Musical highlights was standing a few feet away to one of my musical heroes, the fabulous organ player Joey DeFrancesco, when he played some super lovely organ jazz at the Visconti Organ booth. I told him about that lovely concert I heard him perform in Stockholm many years ago. YES!

He came to Stockholm in October.  I saw the show with some friends. Did he have a bass player with him…no…was it still great… YES!!! 

The evening was spent at the Bass Bash a special bass event, a great hang! The year before I brought a Kala Ubass there for the ”raffle”. This night I heard performances by Abe Laboriel (Open Hands) and the John Patitucci Guitar Quartet with the amazing Nate Smith on drums (Side note: In this video I play to loops from thelooploft.com played by Nate Smith!)

Laboriel and Patitucci both received Lifetime Achievement Awards from Yamaha this night!

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Day 2 (January 26)
It was great to once again, if super brief, say hi to one of my mentors, Victor Wooten. I attended one of his camps outside Nashville back in 2011. Anthony Wellington was one of the many great instructors at the camp. Joe Craven was a guest at the camp. A super talented multi instrumentalist. So great to meet him again! Also got to meet Christian Fabian, a great bass player born in Sweden but now lives in NYC.

I also met some great musician friends! Please check out Ariane Cap she’s a great bass player and educator (I met her at that Wooten Camp back in 2011) I also met Sam Montooth a great singer, bass player, teacher based, as well as Ariane, in the LA area.

One of my Ubass ”papas” Bakithi Kumolo is always such a great hang. We had some nice talks and jams at the Kala booth. He performed at the Bass Bach on the second day of NAMM and almost played my solid body ubass! 🙂
I also met some new friends and they were also Bakithi admires!

I got to meet and great Mr Funk, Bootsy Collins! And check out the great Manou Gallo!

Oscar Cartaya a great latin bass player and ubass artist visited the booth and also played at the Bass Bash.

I ran into Ida Nielsen (played bass with Prince) and Morten Ehlers (the founder of Bass Buddha, a bass shop in Denmark.

I met Christopher Bolte at the Frankfurt Musikmesse back in 2014 and now we finaly meet again. He’s a fellow Gruvgear artist.

Greg Olwell, the editor of Ukulele Magazine, came by the booth. He writes for the Ukulele Magazine and made a great ukulele bass roundup a couple of years ago.

It’s so great to hear talented ukulele players jam. Corey Fujimoto and Andreas David are super musical on their ukuleles! Andreas managed the German ukulele site Gute Ukulele!

Meeting more new friends, Amie Cool, trying out a new pedal by Ruppert Musical Instruments and seeing Jeff Berlin in a nearby booth concludes the Day 2 travelogue.

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Day 3 (January 27)
Some highlights this day was seeing good friends Ariane and Wolf. We had a nice little lunch away from the crazy show floor.

I got to meet Kala Ubass Artist Nik West. She had her signature ubass on display at the booth.

The duo Go West demoed at the booth. So did Corey, Andreas and myself.

I don’t have any pictures but have to mention the wonderful Jule amps the Jule Potter makes!

I would finally be able to meet Richard Mari Cocco Jr, (president) and Eric Cocco (vice president) for the great string maker LaBella

I got to meet great friend and ubass player Greg Gohde too! While walking outside after a long day we heard som crazy energic funky music performed by Kyotaro and Rikuo, a Japanese rhythm section duo. We closed out the day with some great food at the Disney Resort.

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Day 4

So it’s time for the final show day!
Bakithi came by the booth again so did bass player/actor Sekou Bunch. He did some great jams. I will probably share some of that later! Divinity Roxx, former musical director with Beyoncé, came by too.

The great Ukulenny demoed at the booth. My new friend Simon Poulton tried the Kala Journeyman. The Japanese bass player from Kyotaro & Rikuo from Day 3 visited the booth too.

I went to see Christopher Bolte demo at the gruvgear booth and got to met good friend Jay Baldemor. Gruvgear make a really nice and sturdy gigbag for ubass!

I also went to the Elrick booth to try out some lovely basses built by Rob Elrick

It was so great to work alongside my great Kala Family once again! See you soon!

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The Acoustic-electric Ubass Walls

Links
Good walkthrough of the updated Ubass line for 2018 by Ryan Haugh
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skjsPHn5ig0

The new Jorneyman ubass is one of three new ubasses in a new entry level line. These models are offered in fretted versions and will hopefully be available in fretless versions too later on. I played all three of these and they are a great addition to the existent line of ubasses.
https://kalabrand.com/blogs/u-bass-news/namm-2018-new-u-bass-preview

 

This concludes my travelogue around this wonderful Ubass Adventure!

/Magnus

Ubass sighting: Fretted acoustic/electric ubass spotted with Bokanté!

A

Hi,

The pictures above are from my trip to the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA back in January. I will do a featured blog post about the show but haven’t had the time to do that yet but it will come! So why are these pictures in this post about a ubass sighting? Well, Mr Michael League was one of several featured bass players at this years Bass Bash. He played with one of his bands FORQ. They played a great set and it was great to once again hear Michael play. I was at a show in Stockholm back in 2015 when he was there with his most famous band Snarky Puppy. I have featured Snarky Puppy before in a Ubass Sightings blog post.

This post will feature yet another of Michaels bands, Bokanté! This band has a really nice lineup with three guitar players, three percussion players, a pedal steel player and a lead vocalist…and a (u)bass player of course!

Here’s som info about the group from musicworksinternational.com

The word bokanté means “exchange” in Creole, the language of vocalist Malika Tirolien’s youth growing up on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Now living in Montreal, she stands among 8 musicians from 4 continents, each one accomplished in their own right and well versed in music far beyond that of their point of origin. Two-time Grammy award-winning guitarists Michael League, Chris McQueen, and Bob Lanzetti (all from Snarky Puppy), percussion legend Jamey Haddad (Paul Simon, Sting), pedal and lap steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier (Lee Boys, Karl Denson), and unplaceable percussionists André Ferrari (Väsen) and Keita Ogawa (Banda Magda, Yo-Yo Ma) come together to create a diverse ensemble rich in groove, melody, and soul.

In the song ”O La” you can hear and see that the low end is handled with a fretted acoustic/electric ubass with some help from the baritone guitar Michael is playing. He usually plays bass in his bands but in Bokanté he plays both bass/ubass and baritone guitar on the studio album ”Strange Circles” that will be released in June 2017. [Pre-order available here] On the live shows he will play the baritone guitar exclusively. He recently said in an interview for Scotts Bass Lessons that he wanted to have the chance to play with some of his favorite bass players. On the upcoming tours the bass chair will be filled by different bass players. See and read more here.

Please have a listen…and a look. I hope they will come to Sweden someday soon so I get to hear them live!

PS. One of the percussionists (André Ferrari) is from Sweden. He’s also featured in the video I referred to in the beginning of this post!

PS2 Please check out Ariane Cap (she’s in the picture at the top of the post) and the great book she has written about music theory with a bass player focus!

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Some quotes about Bokanté:

“One of the more versatile groups on the planet right now”

-Rolling Stone

“A barnstorming, groove-centric instrumental act with a rabid fan base… if the name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s probably just a matter of time”

-The New York Times

“Big, rich and funky.”

NPR Music

“Stands out with a furious commitment to defying musical categories.”

-LA Times

“Sounds like one spotless collection of intricate musics performed by just one very skilled, albeit extended, band.”

Yahoo Music

“Thinking person’s feel-good music.”

-Downbeat

“A big, happy band of skilled musicians whose tunes are both complex and easy to dance to.”

-LA Weekly

Ubassists of the World – Abraham Laboriel

Abraham Laborial and me before the Open Hands concert in Sweden this past July
Abraham Laborial and me before the Open Hands concert in Sweden this past July

Hi,

One day in July I got the news that one of my bass heroes would come to Sweden for one gig. We are both Kala Ubass Endorsees (which is pretty amazing to start with) so I managed to hook up with him through the company. 

The meeting/concert was in the southern parts of Sweden and I traveled there with two of my Kala solid body ubasses. 

Who is Abraham Laboriel?

Some of you may know about him and some don’t so I’ll give you a brief background here.

Let’s start with some of the artists he has worked with as a session musician in Los Angeles:

Al JarreauGeorge BensonAlan SilvestriAlvaro Lopez and Res-Q BandAlvin SlaughterDon FelderAndraé CrouchAndy PrattAndy SummersBarbra StreisandBilly Cobham, Carlos Skinfill, Chris IsaakChristopher CrossCrystal LewisDave GrusinDjavanDolly PartonDon MoenDonald FagenElton JohnEngelbert HumperdinckFreddie HubbardHansonHerb AlpertHerbie HancockJohnny HallydayKeith GreenKelly WillardLalo SchifrinLarry CarltonLee RitenourLeo SayerLisa LoebMadonnaMichael JacksonNathan DavisPaul Jackson Jr.Paul SimonQuincy JonesRay CharlesRon KenolyRuss TaffStevie Wonder, and Umberto Tozzi.

Abraham Laboriel Sr. (born July 17, 1947) is a Mexican bassist who has played on over 4,000 recordings and soundtracks.[1] Guitar Player Magazine described him as ”the most widely used session bassist of our time”.[2][3] Laboriel is the father of drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and of producer, songwriter, and film composer Mateo Laboriel.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Laboriel

Abraham trying out my Solid Body fretted 5-string tuned EADGC
Abraham trying out my Solid Body fretted 5-string tuned EADGC

 

Meeting Abraham was such a joy. He’s a wonderful, warm human being with such a big heart. Hearing/seeing him play live has knocked me every time. He is an ”all in” performer that really speaks to you from heart to heart. He has been in my musical life for quite some time. I told him about hearing/seeing him at concert in the mid 80’s and even in the town where I work now on a gig probably more then 10 years ago. 

We started talking and I showed him what I have done on my blog, video lessons and recordings. What was supposed to be an interview became a nice chat about music and life, almost as we had known each other since the mid 80’s…

I really hope we can meet again soon and continue of talk and I might even get around to ask him my prepared questions! 🙂

As I wrote earlier my two solid body’s were on the trip with me and I wanted to show Abraham these. You might have picked up that I have experimented with ”new” strings on these two 5-strings. (I will do a proper blog post about these tests soon!) Anyway, Abraham started playing on the fretted one, unamplified, and after a while I grabbed the fretless one and join in on the quiet jam. It sure was nice to get to play with one of my bass heroes!

Here’s a little snippet of that jam…

All the best to all ubassists out there,

Magnus

Some youtube videos featuring Abraham:

New newsletter with lots of…news!

playubass-newsletter-logo

I’m just about to send out my next newsletter…the first one this year…

My goal was to keep these going in a more monthly or bi-monthly faschion. But time kind of rushes past too quickly…

Anyway if you don’t already subscribe now!

From the newsletter:
Education material for the Ubass
In this next issue of the newsletter I will finally let you try out a portion the educational material I’ve been working on for quite some time now.

These so called Lesson Packs is aiming towards different topics and since I haven’t been able to play with my right hand because of a hand injury (more in the newsletter) the first thing up is part of a lesson focusing on the hammer-on and pull-of techniques from a future Lesson Pack 3 ”Etudes and dexterity” lesson.

In the lesson you will be able to try out the interface. I will start by releasing these Lesson Packs in the iBooks format.
This format is available only via the AppStore/iBooksStore so iPhone, iPad and Mac users (Yosemite 10.10 and up) will be able to uses these.

To check ”the market” I have made a little survey trying to find out how many of you that have access to any of the above mentioned platforms. If demand is high, I might put time into transforming/developing versions of these lesson packs for other formats/platforms.

Please fill in this survey (will take 1-2 minutes tops!)

The first lesson pack to be released is Lesson Pack 1 ”Basic techniques”.
I’m still in the process of making the video portions of these lessons, and it takes a lot of time to get these right. Can’t yet let you know about an exact date for the release but my goal is the beginning of 2016.

NEW INTERVIEW! Ubassists of the world – Interview 3 – Rick Saenz (USA)

Ubassists of the world!

In this series of interviews I will try to find out how and why Ubass has become a new tool for different musicians around the world to express their Music!

For an even nicer reading experience please download this PDF!

The Ridgewood Boys, Rick och Ubass, vocals and his son Chris on guitar, banjo and vocals
The Ridgewood Boys, Rick och Ubass, vocals and his son Chris on guitar, banjo and vocals

Interview 3 Rick Saenz (Kentucky, USA)

It’s time for my third interview in this series. This time we’re in USA and we get to know Rick Saenz. He found a perfect instrument in the Ubass, portable and with great acoustic sound.

Since we live on different contents we did this interview via email.

Over to Rick.

Hi Magnus!

It’s an honor to participate in your interview series, Magnus, especially since I don’t consider myself much of a bass player! For the past 11 years my son Chris and I performed as The Ridgewood Boys, an early country music duo, until we decided to put the project on hiatus when my travel schedule changed.

When he was 13, my son Chris began to exhibit some serious musical gifts on guitar and banjo. We lived in the southeastern US (Virginia), where the dominant acoustic music is bluegrass, so I began taking him to festivals and music weeks so he could learn about it. I wanted to participate, but I had never played an instrument, and arthritis had twisted my hands to the point that forming chords was very difficult. 

But one day I was watching someone play bass guitar, and thought: hey, I could probably do that! So I bought one, and learned to my relief that bluegrass bass playing is very simple–in fact, flashy or busy accompaniment is frowned upon. Once I knew where to find the root and five notes for a given chord, I was on my way. In our duet the focus was on our singing and Chris’s guitar and banjo playing. Having the bass mostly gave me something to do, but Chris tells me that even my simple accompaniment provided critical low end and rhythm, freeing him up in his own playing.

/Rick

Let the interview begin.

The sound! We had switched from bass guitar to upright acoustic because of the sound, and this was the first bass guitar I’d ever heard which made a credible acoustic sound.

Magnus: Why Ubass?

Rick: Because it’s so small! Soon after starting our duet I switched from bass guitar to upright acoustic, which gave us the proper bluegrass sound–but also additional difficulties, both in physically playing it and in transporting it. It was also limiting in performance, since I was anchored in one spot and had to stand as well. The Ubass solved that instantly–when we played standing I was able to walk around the stage, and we were also able to both play seated. (The sketch I’ve included shows how we would normally play a coffee shop.)

coffeetree-1

M: Where did you first hear about Ubass?

R: The first time I remember noticing the Ubass was in this April 2010 video of Raul Malo, who had just bought one. I may have been looking for info on the Ubass, or I may have just stumbled across it, but this video sold me. The sound! We had switched from bass guitar to upright acoustic because of the sound, and this was the first bass guitar I’d ever heard which made a credible acoustic sound.

M: How long have you played the Ubass?

R: I bought mine, a spruce top fretless, in September 2011. Since then I’ve played it almost exclusively, dusting off the upright acoustic only on those occasions where the crowd is too traditional to accept an electrified instrument.

M: How do you use your Ubass? (different settings and styles/genres..)

R: I use it to accompany my son, who plays either acoustic guitar or banjo as we sing old time, early bluegrass and early country music.  

I generally play through whatever PA system is available, or the Fishman SA-220 portable PA we use for smaller gigs. I connect using a Fishman Pro-EQ Platinum Bass Preamp, adding a bit of compression and rolling off the highs (otherwise I get clicking when I pluck the strings, something I could probably control at the source if I tried ….) 

I have used stock strings, Aquila Thunderguts, and Silver Rumblers, and liked them all. 

The response has been tremendous–folks who are hesitant to touch an upright acoustic or even a bass guitar just can’t resist picking up the Ubass to try out!

M: Can you recommend others to start playing Ubass? Who can benefit from adding a Ubass as a new musical tool?

R: In fact, I currently work for a well-known banjo player and bluegrass music teacher, Pete Wernick, who has created a network of music teachers who introduce novice players to bluegrass jamming. One feature of these classes is to encourage everyone to take up the bass as an additional instrument, since the sound is vital to bluegrass and it is good to be able to switch to bass for the sake of the jam. We offer five-minute (!) bass lessons to anyone who is interested, enough to allow them to play along on a simple song in an easy key.

Lately we have been recommending the Ubass as a friendly and inexpensive way to do this. The response has been tremendous–folks who are hesitant to touch an upright acoustic or even a bass guitar just can’t resist picking up the Ubass to try out!

And of course I recommend it to anyone currently playing bass, at least as a change of pace. Audiences love both the look and the sound. And other more skilled bass players I’ve loaned it too are reluctant to give it back!

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A big thank you to Rick and please keep playing that UBass!

Magnus

Picture wall about to go live! Please send me more pics so it will get big and bold :-)

Picposter - Ubassists @ playubass.com

Hi!

I have just added a new page to playubass.com! It’s the ”Picture poster wall – ubassists of the world”! Please send me a pic with you and your ubass preferably in a place you really love, why not in the outdoors! I could also be a gig pic of course.

Let’s get together and make this wall a big and cozy place for all the cool ubassists of the world to be seen! Send pics to ubasslessons@gmail.com Check out the page now! (Will soon take away the ”curtain” and really make it live!)
(PS. Will soon send out a new newsletter too!)

All the best,
Magnus

 

 

NEW INTERVIEW! Ubassists of the world – Peter Laustsen (Norway)

In this series of interviews I will try to find out how and why Ubass has become a new tool for different musicians around the world to express their Music!

For a even nicer reading experience please consider my PDF version of this interview!

Interview 2 Peter Laustsen (Norway)
For my second interview I look a bit to the west. The featured Ubassist lives in the southwest parts of Norway only about 800 km from where I live in Sweden. I got to know Peter through our mutual interest in all things bass and of course Ubass. We are also both educators in the wonderful world of Music!

I would have loved doing this interview in person but it wasn’t possible this time. I simply sent Peter my questions and he sent back his answers super quick! Thanks, Peter, for being part of the world of Ubass and wanting to be my second interviewee!

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Jamming on my doorstep

First up is Peters introduction.

Hi Magnus!

First, thanks a lot for inviting me to this interview, you’ve got a great site which is so informative regarding the Ubass and everything about it. There are many questions to answer when buying a Ubass, but you and your site are just such an excellent knowledge resource. Thanks again.
/Peter

Let the interview begin.

Magnus: Why Ubass?
Peter: Well, that’s a looong story, I’ll try to make it short…
I’m a professional bass player and a music teacher (read more at http://www.peterlaustsen.com). Permanent positions in this particular field here in Norway are scarce and far between. This often means that you’ll have to work long hours and commute for a lot of miles to get a decent permanent job. For the past 5 years I’ve commuted about 600km by train per week to teach at a music department at a high school. Bringing all your stuff on the train is quite cumbersome and the less you have to carry the better. I bought an Aria Sinsonido travel bass second hand a few years ago, which I used to bring along on the road, but it just wasn’t that good and still quite big (34″ scale).

The size of this little beast is one thing, but the sound is what really sells the Ubass.

When I bought the Ubass (I own an acoustic fretless spruce) it took over immediately and I loved it from the first moment. Works well for me when traveling by bus, light rail and train on a daily basis (although you loose the coolness of looking like a ”real” bass player).

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Playing a concert with Bergen Impro Storband (Bergen Impro Big Band)

The size of this little beast is one thing, but the sound is what really sells the Ubass. I loved it from the first moment, both the acoustic sound and the amplified sound. I also play double bass and I love dark and mellow tones, the Ubass is warm and moves a lot of air when amplified, that’s all I need most of the time. I’ll always try to ”get away” with bringing the Ubass instead of my 3/4 upright to a gig/rehearsal whenever I can. It’s just so much easier in every way, especially on your back!
I can utilize all kinds of public transport with my bass rig and that’s a big deal when you live in the city. My rig consists of a Walter Woods Ultra head, hooked up to an Acme Low B1 cabinet. I just use a small trolley to move it around, it’s excellent and I’ll never go back to the heavy tube amps and cabs that I used to play (Mesa 400+ and Ampeg SVT-2). More bass, less space!

M: Where did you first hear about Ubass?
P: I don’t quite remember, but I think I read about it on the TalkBass forum online when I browsed through threads about travel basses. Yeah, I think that’s where I picked up on it. I’ve never seen anybody play one in real life though, I seem to be the only one in Bergen who owns one as far as I know.

M: How long have you played the Ubass?
P: I bought my fretless spruce in august 2012, so almost 2 years ago and have played it ever since.

M: How do you use your Ubass? (different settings and styles/genres..)
P: I play my Ubass live as much as I can! I haven’t had that many live gigs lately due to my busy family situation, but I always keep it close at hand on the wall in the living room. Limitations in terms of genres? None really, but I personally don’t see it fit in metal, but that’s it really.
I love many genres of music, my roots mainly grew out of rock, blues and reggae. I’ve also played some jazz and I love to improvise freely as well. So, I’m pretty much all over the spectrum and I use my Ubass all over as well.
I use the Ubass when I teach, for live gigs, in practice, for learning songs late at night in my living room and just for fun. I’ve played a few country rock concerts a few years ago and I just wished I had it back then, it would have blended right in.
My model is one of the older ones without a built-in preamp, so I use a Fishman B-II Acoustic Preamp to bump up the piezo, which works just fine. I could go without a preamp because my Walter Woods head supports it, but I always bring the Fishman along for other amps than my own.

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Teaching bass

M: Can you recommend others to start playing Ubass? Who can benefit from adding a Ubass as a new musical tool?
P: Having such a small portable bass which sounds so good would suit anybody who bring their instruments beyond their own front door. My neighbor, who’s an occasional indoor electric bassist, loves my Ubass and he didn’t even realize that it was fretless at first because the ”fret spacing” felt so natural. That says it all doesn’t it? It just feels better anatomically not to stretch your fingers as much as 34″+ basses and double bass requires you to do.
The prices of the cheapest Ubass models are also affordable, especially compared to other short scale basses out there.

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Backing the students of a local music school in concert.

I think any bass loving person would dig to play the Ubass. I get run down on every gig I play by people who wonder what instrument I play and ”where that bass sound came from”. Most of them fall in love when I let them try it out. Even kids can get into bass playing now because of the super short scale length. Btw, a colleague of mine just purchased two rumbler’s for the youngest players at the music school where he teaches. Just excellent!
The only problem with the Ubass… is that you want more!
I’m currently saving up cash to buy an US ”exotic top” fretless 4-string solid body.

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NEW INTERVIEW SERIES! Ubassists of the World – Gunnar Hjorth (Sweden)

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Hi!

I’m super exited to post the first (of hopefully many) interviews in my new series.

This interview can be also be downloaded as a PDF if you want a nice reading experience 🙂

Ubassists of the world!
In this series of interviews I will try to find out how and why Ubass has become a new tool for different musicians around the world to express their Music!

Interview by Magnus Sjöquist for playubass.com

Interview 1 Gunnar Hjorth (Sweden)
To kick of this series I asked my long time friend Gunnar Hjorth if he wanted to be my first interviewee. On Saturday 8th of March 2014 I visited him in his studio. Besides the interview we also got to do a quick Ubass duet jam in his studio! Pure fun!

Let the interview begin!

This interview was done in Swedish (made sense since we’re both Swedish)
so this is a translated transcript of the interview).

Magnus: Hi Gunnar!
Gunnar: Hi Magnus!

M: How come you play the Ubass?
G: It is a fantastic instrument, fun to play and very versatile!
I’m mainly a guitarist but do play quite a lot of bass in different situations, live and also on different recordings in my studio, I have been looking for a bass that gives me a big sound but also is easy on my hands. If I play a lot of electric bass I often get blisters on my finger tips. Since this is the case I always have to take this into play when I’m about to do some electric bass recordings. Recording bass and then wait a while until the next session so I don’t get blisters. Then suddenly I come a cross a instrument that sounds almost like an upright bass, is totally ergonomic and easy on my hands (body), fun to play and with a fat/full sound and fits the hands of a guitar player perfectly!

M: I know you play a lot of classical guitar that requires nails on the right hand fingers to be able to get the desired sound.
G: Yes, and here lies a big part of the problems that faces a guitarist that wants to play bass.
M: Playing bass however requires short nails to get a full/round sound.
G: Exactly, I have to turn my fingers to a certain angle to avoid nail sound.
M: So you have found a technique that works? Is it easier to use this technique on a Ubass than it is on a regular electric bass?
G: It’s a lot easier on the Ubass! Much because the strings are less tough on the fingers/nails than on a regular electric bass. If your nails touch the Ubass string they won’t break because of the softer material. (Gunnar talks about the original Pahoehoe strings here. Thunderguts and Silver Rumblers by Aquila are also softer on the fingers. These three are the most common string choices for the acoustic/electric Ubass). This makes the feeling more similar to an nylon guitar than a electric bass. I can use more of my classical guitar technique on the Ubass than I could on a electric bass.
M: Do you play only with your right hand index or middle fingers or are you using your thumb as well?
G: Yes, sometimes I use my thumb to get a more fluffy and round tone. But I do play a lot with my index and middle fingers and it works really well.

M: What turned you on to the Ubass? Where did you find out about the instrument?
G: Well, I heard a good friend play the instrument and it sounded so very nice and felt like a really cool instrument. I got very interested in the Ubass and wanted to find out more so I asked him a lot of questions that he answered gladly! I thought about it for awhile and started looking for them in the music stores but they were hard to find so I ended up buying one online.
Once I got the Ubass I started to play it for a couple of months to get to know it before I brought it to a gig.
M: To get more familiar with the feeling of the Ubass!?
G: Yes. Playing the Ubass has become increasingly more fun and nowadays I almost always prefer the Ubass instead of a regular bass if the situation let me choose!
M: I think that it is quite easy to get used to playing the Ubass. And for a guitarist I presume it will be more like a guitar since the scale length isn’t so far from a regular guitar.
G: It’s very easy on the hands.
M: You don’t have to stretch your fingers that much on the Ubass.
G: It’s the ideal bass instrument for someone that’s mainly a guitar player

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G: You can use your basic guitar technique. I also think it has the possibility to get a lot of different and diverse sounds. I like the fact that mine is fretless. I really love the fretless bass, maybe because I have played with a great fretless player for many years!
M: Did you hesitate when you choose between the fretted or fretted model?
G: No, for me it was the fretless I wanted to play.
M: Did you have the chance to try both models before you ordered your fretless?
G: Only a quick test.
M: Was that enough?
G: I felt it was a bass instrument I could invest time practicing without the fear of getting blisters after a short while!
M: I do recommend the fretless, or at least that you try it out before you decide. If you’re used to play a regular bass the change to a smaller scale length can take some adjustments and the lack of frets will help you avoid playing on the fret wire since this will produce an unpleasant sound.
G: I wanted to get a sound close to the upright bass because I’m interested in jazz music and I have been using my fretless Ubass on music in that style.
M: And on a upright bass there are no frets…
G: You’re right, it’s a well known fact! 🙂

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It’s the ideal bass instrument for someone that’s mainly a guitar player

M: How long have you had your Ubass?
G: Almost two years.
M: And after about two months you started to use it live!
G: Yes, but I did stare a lot on the fretboard to play in tune. It has however been easier and easier to play in tune in the 21 inch short scale.
M: When you play the Ubass what styles do you play? We have already talked about jazz. Are there other styles you play live and in your studio?
G: I have been using it on Latin inspired music (from ex. Brazil…) and also pop songs.
You can vary the sound a lot so I think it is a versatile and all-round instrument.
M: So by varying the playing technique you can get different sounds?
G: Yes, it’s surprisingly easy and it’s easier on the Ubass than on a regular bass
You can easily go from a upright-like tone to a snappy pop sound just by varying the playing technique.
M: That’s interesting. You might think that the rubbery original black strings should be very round sounding but they can really sound very snappy and short too!

M: You are a multi instrumentalist with guitar as your main instrument,
can you recommend other musicians that don’t have bass as main instrument to start playing the Ubass?

G: Yes I can, and I do! There are people I have played with that have picked up their own Ubass, wanting to have that tool of expression too! The Ubass has so many benefits!
I can really recommend it to other guitarists that want to have a great bass instrument in their toolbox. And it isn’t too expensive!
M: I know that many guitarists (and people with other main instruments too) have a home studio and might want to record, for example, music that ”requires” the sound of an upright bass. Why not play it yourself instead of trying to record it on a midi keyboard with an upright sound patch!
G: It will be a more live/living feel and maybe even more authentic than if you play on the midi keyboard keys.

Find out more about Gunnar Hjorth and his music on gunnarhjorth.se

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Jammin’ with my Kala UBass | 39 Fretless Ubass x 2

More interviews soon!